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Crist's (kind of) easy ways to balance the budget

Florida lawmakers can fill a $2.3 billion budget hole by slightly trimming government spending, nearly emptying savings accounts and approving a gambling agreement with the Seminole Tribe of Florida, according to a draft document approved by Gov. Charlie Crist.

Left off the list of options: tax and fee increases -- which could still crop up during the Jan. 5-16 special lawmaking session to balance the budget.

Crist also hopes lawmakers will consider an economic development plan that will help small businesses and also provide a glimmer of positive news as legislators cut the budget.

''It's nice to be able to provide hope,'' Crist said Thursday. ``These are tough times.''

Crist's tentative proposal is more road map than mandate for legislators.

Senate President Jeff Atwater on Thursday ruled out approving the Seminoles gambling agreement, but said he might consider plans to increase fees for government services and licenses.

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